Watch CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper at 4 p.m. ET to see the full interviews.
Leeds, McGillivray and Carroll have never met, but they have become familiar with one another’s stories.
And all three are grappling with the same question: What does justice and accountability look like when the man they say attacked them is the most powerful person in the world?
The accused have been confronted with a range of consequences. But Trump has remained unscathed by the allegations that more than a dozen women have publicly leveled against him, ranging from unwelcome advances to sexual harassment and assault.
The President has repeatedly and vehemently denied all such allegations, at times even smearing the accusers.
Leeds, McGillivray and Carroll spoke with CNN in recent months in three separate interviews.
McGillivray told CNN that a movement that has empowered so many others has not yet come to her.
“I feel like we are the forgotten ones. I feel like we have been brushed aside and forgotten about,” McGillivray told CNN. “How many women is it going to take for people to go: ‘OK, enough is enough.’ What is it going to really take for people to go, ‘OK, well, you know what? He needs to be held accountable. He can’t go on like this.’ “
‘Trump really is Teflon’
For Leeds, it took place on an airplane in the 1980s: She was seated next to Trump in the first-class cabin, when she says the then-real estate tycoon groped and kissed her before putting his hand up her skirt. For McGillivray, it was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2003: As she stood backstage at a Ray Charles concert, she says Trump grabbed her buttocks. For Carroll, Trump’s latest accuser, it was in the mid-1990s inside of a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in Manhattan: she says Trump held her up against the wall, pushed down her tights and raped her.
Trump’s accusers, including Leeds, McGillivray and Carroll, have cheered on the national moment of reckoning.
But at the same time, they have also watched the man they say attacked them get elected to the highest office in the land and publicly deny — sometimes even mock — their allegations.
Leeds said she is convinced that there is virtually nothing that can pierce Trump’s armor.
“Trump really is Teflon. It just slides right off of him,” she said.
In the same breath that she expressed immense pride over the #MeToo movement, Leeds also sounded resigned to its limitations: “I do recognize that we are, as women, asking a great deal. You know, you don’t ask to share power from people who give it up willingly.”
‘I pointed to the TV … You son of a bitch, you’re a liar!’
In the final weeks of the 2016 presidential election, an explosive “Access Hollywood” tape captured Trump boasting to TV anchor Billy Bush about assaulting women.
“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” Trump said.
Asked point blank by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on the debate stage whether he had “ever done those things,” a defiant Trump answered: “No, I have not.”
For both Leeds and McGillivray, that moment on television was their tipping point.
“I jumped out of my seat and I pointed to the TV and I’m like, you son of a bitch, you’re a liar!” McGillivray recalled.
“I was so angry that I’m standing up and I’m yelling at the TV,” Leeds said. “I didn’t sleep well that night. And the next morning I woke up and I opened up my door to grab the newspaper and I thought, ‘I know what I’ll do, I’ll write a letter to the editor.’ “
Leeds’ allegation soon published in The New York Times. Other accusations against Trump trickled out in the following months. Then, a year after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, the Times published a bombshell exposé on decades of sexual misconduct covered up by producer Harvey Weinstein and his associates. The floodgates opened, unleashing thousands of confessions of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault bearing the #MeToo hashtag.
Carroll said it was around this time that her own moment came — when readers began to flood her inbox for the “Ask E. Jean” advice column. They wanted to know whether they, too, should report bosses who sexually harassed them, speak out about abusive spouses or report years-old assault to the police.
Confronted with these questions, Carroll said it began to dawn on her that she had been in denial not only about her violent encounter with Trump, but other sexual abuse she had experienced over the years.
“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so full of malarkey. I’ve got to get straight with my own readers.’ It was plaguing me,” she said. “It was because of the women.”